Facebook’s “XCheck”: special rules for millions of celebrity accounts

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Millions of celebrity accounts on Facebook are exempt from the rules that apply to the rest of the users. You fall into a program called “XCheck” reports that Wall Street Journal. For example, if you share posts that violate the terms of use, they may – unlike others – remain in place until particularly well-trained Facebook employees have checked them. Because of this, tens of millions would have seen a post by soccer star Neymar, which was later classified as “revenge pornographic” and deleted on Facebook. That had no further consequences for the Brazilian footballer.

The program began as a kind of quality control for measures against particularly high-profile accounts on Facebook, the newspaper continues. It now includes at least 5.8 million accounts that are either on a “whitelist” – and therefore do not have to fear any enforcement of the terms of use – or are allowed to share material that can only be checked by permanent employees of Facebook. Often that doesn’t happen at all. In 2019 it was recognized internally on Facebook that this privilege could not be publicly defended within the user community. You contradict the public statements about your own platform.

The Wall Street Journal explains the inequality on the basis of an article by Neymar. After a woman accused the Brazilian footballer of raping her in 2019, he posted videos on Facebook and Instagram in which he defended himself. He also showed WhatsApp messages that he had exchanged with the woman. You could see not only her name, but also nude pictures of her. Normally “incomprehensible intimate pictures” would be deleted without any problems, but instead XCheck prevented the moderation team from doing exactly that. Before it was then deleted after a decision by Facebook management, 56 million accounts had seen the content and it had been shared 6,000 times. Despite the spread of “Revenge Porn”, Neymar’s account was able to remain active.

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Millions of accounts are protected in this way, and most Facebook employees are likely to add some. What leads to deletion or even blocking for “normal” users often has no consequences for them. In 2020 alone, XCheck allowed posts that were viewed at least 16.4 billion times before they were then deleted. These details originate according to the Wall Street Journal from documents that made it clear that Facebook was aware of the many shortcomings on its own platform. Some went not only to the newspaper, but also to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. A Facebook spokesman recognized the criticism, but also described the information as out of date. The newspaper is already announcing further revelations.


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